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EDMania: Navigating Chicago's Electronic Music Festivals

By Katie Karpowicz in Arts & Entertainment on May 9, 2013 4:20PM

Come Memorial Day weekend in Chicago it'll be hard to walk down the street without dodging a dropping bass, getting your womp wobbled and having neon-clad youths ask you about Molly's whereabouts. Yes, it's true, electronic dance music has taken over Chicago summers.

This summer not only are we adding yet another electronic exclusive festival in the form of the Electric Daisy Carnival but two of our second year fests, Spring Awakening and Wavefront music festivals, are extending from two to three days. Add in the ever expanding Perry's stage at Lollapalooza and Labor Day weekend mainstay North Coast Music Festival and it's EDMania.

What's the difference in all of these festivals though? Is it really just a bunch of dudes on decks for a whole weekend? If you can't decide which fest is best suited for your needs, allow us to break down the four most prominently electronic dance music focused festivals for you.

Electric Daisy Carnival Chicago
Dates: May 24 - 26
Location: Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet; in other words, good luck getting to this fest without a car
Origin: EDC was born in California during the '90s and has called the deserts of Nevada its home for the last several years. It's literally an all night carnival complete with rides. This year it touches down on the outskirts of Chicago for the first time.
Programming: EDC's lineup—one that includes Benny Benassi, Avicii and Tiesto—leans more towards the trance and poppy European end of the electronic dance music spectrum.
Crowd: Hula hoop toting hippies. Expect to see true electronic music followers, the type that know about all the best acts before they hit the stage at Lollapalooza.
Price: One day passes ($89), three day passes passes ($175), and camping packages ($295) are still available; downtown shuttles to and from the venue can also be packaged for an additionally steep price

Spring Awakening Music Festival
Dates: June 14-16
Location: Soldier Field; plenty accessible via CTA
Origin: Now in it's second year, Spring Awakening was the first electronic music event held inside Soldier Field with stages both on the actual field and surrounding the stadium.
Programming: Dubstep, dubstep, dubstep. This is easily the most bass thumpingly heavy of Chicago's EDM fests. Big names include Bassnectar, Calvin Harris and The Crystal Method.
Crowd: 16 to 26 year olds who literally don't tire. Be it their youth or some sort of chemical inducement, the anticipation of waiting for the drop never dies. You'll want to wear a tank top, neon trucker hat and fuzzy boots if you want to fit in. Or just throw on your swimsuit and call it an "outfit."
Price: Three day passes are currently priced at $180; according to the festival's website single day tickets will eventually be on sale

Wavefront Music Festival
Dates: July 5 - 7
Location: Montrose Beach; prime real estate for a dance party
Origin: Thrown by the folks behind Spy Bar, Wavefront debuted last summer to mixed reviews. Despite some logistical issues with the location, nothing says "summer music festival" better than stages on top of sand.
Programming: Wavefront aims to hype up the fact that Chicago is the birthplace of house music—a concept that sticks out amidst the list of electronic festivals. However, this year the lineup gets a little more daring and diverse with names like Rusko and Justice.
Crowd: Older. The same regulars that frequent River North dance clubs like Spy Bar, Sound Bar and Enclave. Attire is varied from candy kids to casuals in white tees and flip flops.
Price: Three day passes start at $189 with VIP options available (although, trust us, the "private bathrooms" aren't worth it)

North Coast Music Festival
Dates: August 31 - Sept. 2
Location: Union Park in the West Loop; home to Pitchfork Music Festival as well and a pleasing amount of shade
Origin: Entering its fourth year, North Coast's producers React Presents were some the first in the city to jump at the idea to combine the EDM craze with the popularity of music festivals.
Programming: "Summer's last stand" always boasts a generous electronic music lineup but also peppers rap artists and jam bands throughout the weekend. However, this year they seem to have amped up the non-DJ/producer portion of their programming, likely due to the growing number of electronic artist booking already eaten up by other fests. Still, big names like Afrojack, Big Gigantic and Datsik top the bill so far.
Crowd: The same diversity present in this festival's lineup carries over to its attendees but it's mostly suburban teens, DePaul U students and Lakeview residents with office jobs looking to blow summer out with a booze filled bang.
Price: Three days passes are on sale now starting at $135 (the lowest of the bunch if you're keeping score)

So there you have it. You've got atmosphere (Spring Awakening), location (Wavefront), adventure (EDC) and diversity (North Coast). Three out of four of these festivals have already proven their success and if EDC's popularity in other cities is any indication it could become a summer tradition in Chicago. If you're a fan of electronic dance music, look no further. We've got it. Now you just need to decide which type of experience you want to accompany your bass.